Bronxville Overcomes an Early Deficit to Defeat the Vikings

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It’s been a remarkable turnaround season for the Valhalla football team, which won all six of its regular-season games and arrived on Saturday afternoon in Bronxville for the start of the postseason hoping to add the hosts to its list of vanquished opponents.

But the Broncos proved to be too much of an obstacle for the upstart Vikings to overcome. After surrendering the game’s first touchdown, Bronxville dominated the rest of the way and went on to a 27-8 victory in the playoff qualifier that put an emphatic end to the Vikings’ quest to make some noise in the Class B sectionals.

“We hadn’t given up the big play all year,” said Vikings head coach Stephen Boyer afterwards. “Today, we did.”

It was two long touchdown passes by Bronxville junior quarterback Brian DePaul in the second quarter that turned an eight-point Valhalla lead into a six-point Bronco advantage at halftime. The southpaw signal caller connected with Sam Connors on a 76-yard pass play early in the second quarter, then found Arman Vranka wide open for a 25-yard TD reception less than four minutes later to give the Broncos the lead for good.

Facing a Bronxville team that had outscored them by a whopping 78-6 margin in a pair of romps over the previous two years, the Vikings turned to a bit of trickery early in the second quarter to get on the scoreboard first. A drive that began in the final moments of the first period had seemingly stalled at the Bronco 45-yard line when the Vikings lined up to punt on fourth-and-four.

But punter John Cho tucked the ball under his arm and took off down the right sideline, running for an 18-yard gain before getting forced out of bounds. Just four plays later, Michael Ferrara scooted to his right for a 13-yard touchdown. The Vikings added the two-point conversion, taking an 8-0 lead with just under nine minutes left in the half, when Ferrara then ran up the middle and crossed the goal line again.

“That was awesome,” said Boyer about the deceptive play by punter Cho that set up the touchdown. “Coach (Kevin) Martins, our special teams coach, I had talked to him about it all week and, if we got a certain look, he told ‘em we can go. And he (Cho) took off and did a great job.”

Unfortunately for the Vikings, their lead didn’t last very long. Just two plays later, on second-and-eight, DePaul threw to his left to Connors behind the Viking secondary and the Broncos’ senior running back outraced everyone down the sideline for a 75-yard touchdown. DePaul then shoveled a pass to tight end Jeff Sargent for the two-point conversion that tied the contest.

“I was excited when we took the lead there,” said Boyer, “but they came back with a big play.”

Vikings quarterback Ralph Gonzalez was soon sacked for a loss on third down and Valhalla was forced to punt. Bronxville took over at its own 46-yard line and DePaul, who completed 10 of his 14 passes for over 200 yards, connected with Thomas King for 18 yards on first down. Three plays later, his 25-yard touchdown pass to Vranka left Valhalla playing from behind the rest of the sunny autumn afternoon.

“As they say, everything’s a learning experience,” said Boyer, “and the kids actually, after those two big plays, they just buckled up and kept going and forced Bronxville to have to play the last quarter and a half.”

A 41-yard field goal try by the Broncos with 43 seconds left in the half sailed just wide, so the Vikings’ deficit remained six points when they walked off the field at intermission. They got the ball to start the third quarter, but standout junior Kevin Williams was banged up returning the kickoff to his own 33 and senior lineman James Flaherty was forced out of the game for good with an injured ankle a few plays later.

Bronxville got the ball for the first time in the second half at its own 30-yard line and promptly went 70 yards in seven plays, scoring on a four-yard touchdown run up the middle by Anthony Napolitano, who finished the day with over 200 yards on the ground. Though the extra-point try by Connors was no good, the Broncos still had a 20-8 lead midway through the third quarter.

An interception by Ferrara at the Vikings’ 13-yard line put an end to a Bronxville drive with just under three minutes left in the period. The quarter ended with another Bronco turnover, this time a fumble by Napolitano at the Valhalla 24. But, again, the Vikings couldn’t take advantage and, despite a 55-yard punt by Cho, the Broncos soon put an end to any suspense about the outcome.

They went 85 yards in four plays, starting with a 56-yard run by Napolitano on first down and concluding with Jack Gelinas scampering 13 yards for the touchdown that enabled the Broncos to stretch their lead to 19 points with just 8:18 left on the clock.

The Vikings’ last gasp came when they failed to move the ball following a 30-yard run by Matt Garcia down to the Bronxville 11-yard line. The Broncos took over on downs and ran out the game’s final four minutes.

“We couldn’t sustain enough on the offense and kind of let the defense hang a little too much during the game,” said Boyer. “Very frustrating since I’m the offensive coordinator. But they forced us to throw the ball a little bit. And we’re not great at doing that on a consistent basis. We’re a run team.”

Now out of contention in Class B, the Vikings will instead turn their attention to a consolation matchup against Roosevelt this coming weekend. Boyer is hoping his seniors, especially, can finish the season with a flourish.

“They’re disappointed now, but our season’s because of them,” he said. “They got us here and they worked hard in the offseason. You know we’ll put our helmets on and, with what bodies we have, we’ll play next week. I think the kids’ll rebound from this and we’ll get ourselves focused on our next opponent.”

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